The conclusion of fighting in the Gaza Strip could advance talks between Israel and the Palestinian enclave's Islamist rulers Hamas on a potential prisoner exchange deal, a senior Israeli defense official said on Monday.
Speaking to the media, the official said that Hamas decided to stay on the fence during this latest round of fighting in no small part due to economic concerns since the thousands of Gazans working in Israel provide a vital source of revenue for the coastal territory's struggling economy.
The official did not rule out the option that the cap on Palestinian laborers working in Israel could be raised in order to help maintain peace.
Hamas holds Israeli civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — the latter appeared wearing an oxygen mask in a video released by the terrorist group in June — and the bodies of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin — two Israeli soldiers who were killed in combat during the 2014 Gaza War.
Avera Mengistu voluntarily crossed into Gaza in September 2014 and has been missing since, as did Hisham al-Sayed in April the following year. Their families have claimed over the years the two were facing mental issues. Hamas claims al-Sayed's medical condition has been deteriorating.
Israel and Hamas have been engaged in on-and-off talks on a potential prisoner swap agreement through Egyptian mediation.
One of the main sticking points in the talks has been Hamas' demand to release a large number of Palestinian prisoners, some serving multiple life sentences for carrying out terrorist attacks against Israelis, in return for the Israeli captives and MIAs.